August 2007 Archives

Race Committee

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11 and 12 August 2007

Team Averisera ventured to Portsmouth, New Hampshire for a turn at being Race Committee for the Smuttynose Regatta. The regatta is named after a sponsor, the local Smuttynose brewery, which is named after the local Smuttynose Island.

Norman and Elizabeth drove up from Boston, and stayed with a longtime friend of Norm's, Tom Brown. Averisera stayed home. A plan to sail up was canceled as we couldn't find a place to park the boat.

Tom Brown, Principal Race Officer and sailing pal of Norm's since 1987.

Elizabeth secures racing marks to the committee boat after inflating same.

With four buoys lashed to the boat we looked clownish. To make things more "amusing," the anchors and rode for each buoy took up valuable walking space. With the boat bobbing, anchors rolling around, buoys bouncing, the crew must have seemed like a bunch of clowns. Happily, we usually enjoyed those moments in privacy.
The RC boat was a 22 foot Mako loaned by the Great Bay Marine folks.

The weather was perfect, camaraderie excellent, and it seems we did an OK job as RC. All good. Fact is, it is a lot of fun to watch a sailboat race. We got in four races each about an hour long on Saturday. There were three under an hour long races on Sunday. The crews were pretty tired but happy about the quality of racing.

From the Race Committee's point of view, the sailors were doing a good job working the course. It is interesting to watch the fleet and critique tactics. For a few minutes after the start, boats are clearly identified. Halfway up the course, about a half mile away from us, they lose their identifying characteristics. Then, at the top mark, we awaited spinnaker sets. The kites are different enough that we could put the fleet into some sort of rank order and speculate about the downwind strategies. Never a dull moment.

The big asset in this entire adventure was E-cubed... Eagle Eye Elizabeth. Who knew she could read sail numbers, memorize kite colors and figure out the order of finish while conveying the information to the scorer? New binoculars for her next year!

Scoring the finishes was sometimes very wild. Boats converge on the start/finish line from both directions as they finish downwind. The starboard gybe boats headed straight at the RC boat... that's us... at six or seven knots. Bow waves rumbling, crew shouting instructions that turn the boat closer to us. RC stands calmly recording the order of finish. Things are fast at the finish. The starts were slower and more orderly.

Next year we plan to return to the RC job. It was a howling good time. Team Averisera picked up some racing skills by watching and analyzing the fleet's maneuvers.

Thanks Tom for your hospitality!

Harbor Scenes

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9 August 2007
After an evening of checking the new mainsail, we get to hear the USS Constitution fire off the evening colors salute. Our berth is about one hundred yards from the cannon's muzzle. We aren't the only one's around for the ceremony; harbor tour boats galore swing by for a look and listen.

The dramatic summer evening sky promises some thunder showers along the North Shore. The night before, we saw a similar sky and found ourselves in a Class A squall. During the incident, a small sailboat from a sailing club (not BSC) was blown against a pier on the South Boston shore and sank. All four aboard were rescued and OK.

As Elizabeth was trying to put Averisera into her berth, three tour boats and numerous small craft were milling around awaiting the evening salute. The P'town II is the biggest and also most maneuverable. We were able to wiggle our way in without incident.

Docking! Always an adventure figuring out wind and current. Story to follow?

Mainsail Change

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Averisera at her berth in Charlestown, MA. The big boat that is usually berthed alongside is cruising. We have a chance to see our boat in a new way. We do wish the professional crew would get the topsides sparkling! Boston Harbor stains our white hull.

Elizabeth is at the mast. We are making ready to remove the old 1985 Diamond Dacron mainsail and install the 2005 North 3DL mainsail. In time, we'll match the mainsail with a smart new headsail.

Our motivation is that we hope to do well in the remaining Wednesday Night Race series of six races. The first series of six races had us first in division. Averisera was away for most of the middle series, just completed. The final series of six races begins next week, 15 August. Given our weak headsail inventory, a splashy mainsail is called for. The sail was bought by the former owner and used for a few seasons of racing on Long Island Sound.

The sail went up in the usual way. Minor issues with outhaul tension and bolt rope feeding. Reasons we try these new things in a controlled environment, a calm evening on Boston Harbor.

The sail set alright and reefed without incident. The sail is much flatter than our old Dacron crosscut mainsail. We hope that works out well in practice.

As we were struggling the sail up the mast, Jesse and Bernard from BSC motored by in the Mako. We waved and talked. The fact that Averisera is sporting a 3DL main will be all over the Riverboat soon. Our crew will be jazzed and ready for action next week.

Our friendly sailmaker

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Joe Cooper checks out the fleet prior to the Solo Twin start. One of the bigger items on the "to do" list is sails. Joe Cooper of Hood Sails in Rhode Island has been a friend and sailmaker for Norman for years. A new suit of Vektron threads is called for. We also appreciate Joe's tips on setting up AVERISERA.

Our headsails, in particular, are shabby and slow. They were built by Diamond Sails in Europe in 1984 from Kevlar/Mylar laminate. State of the art in their day but falling apart now.

Sails are the engines and we want good ones. Hood's Vektron seems the best choice. Vektron is a very strong fiber that is woven into the Dacron cloth. This results in a strong, long lasting sail. Sounds OK with us!

The Stove

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We eat well on the boat. This is mostly due to Elizabeth's willingness to plan and cook. Our pressure cooker is able to yield some fabulous soups and stews. But... the galley stove gets off balance with the pressure cooker. Elizabeth... ever resourceful... simply slings a snatch block from the fiddle and voila, the stove is balanced.
So the next day, Friday, bright and early, we were up and foraging for coffee and breakfast. Norm, ever resourceful, found a Panera that was open, and secured for us some quiches (yumm) and nice big coffees. Also, a croissant for me, which I never did get around to eating. (Norm found it during the boat cleanup when we got back. Shhh.) We headed up to the clubhouse for the skippers' meeting, and found that the hospitality at the Newport Yacht Club extended to providing a nice buffet breakfast!! Bagels, yogurt, fruit, cereal, all the makings were there. Silly us. Well, I pocketed a yogurt, because you never know when you're going to need one.

We got the briefing, the course, the instructions, and we were ready to race. Except we had a couple of hours to waste. So we headed out to check out the start line, and watch the fleet assemble. As the time got closer, the usual panic set in (just me, not Norm) and my heart was racing. I was able to manage a semblance of control, and actually took in some of the start. Since we were Class 3, we got to watch two starts before us. By that time, I was doing better.

This is the sun protection I use. It's a very big hat. It is also a navigational tool. You can tell by the brim whether we are on port tack, starboard tack, close reach upwind (as shown here) or downwind. And you can judge the strength of the wind as well, by how stiffly the brim flies.

Ok, enough of that. We had a good start, second over the line. And we were off!! Wait a minute, isn't that the J-24? How are they going so fast. Hmm, that was our whole fleet, ahead of us before we reached the mouth of the harbor. I know, Norm, new sails....

We tried to use our superior sailing skills to catch up to the fleet, which we were able to do by terrorizing Elizabeth, and sailing close to the shore. Who knew you could navigate by contour lines? Well, I knew, but didn't think anyone would take it to this extreme. (Learning this though did come in pretty handy on the return trip, another story.) I don't know though how you are supposed to determine by contour lines where that BIG ROCK might be. When the fisherman on shore is yelling for you to head out, it might be time to tack. Phew.

We used this very same technique along the Pt. Judith and Matinuck shorelines, before heading across to Block Island, where we used it again. We definitely had more wind along the beaches, but also more stress. As we reached the end of Block Island, I thought we had reached the end of our reserves too. I was stressed to the edge, and so I believe was Norm. Wasn't this race supposed to teach us more about our abilities to take care of each other in long distance trips? When were we going to stop stressing and start nourishing. Besides, it was time for dinner, wasn't it? And a nap? Well, dinner (picnic) of a sort, and no nap, because the parking lot was dead ahead of us. See Norm's post on this wind/current phenom at the SW point of Block Island. With our heads in the game, we had a chance to beat the fleet. Alas, we didn't, but it was fun trying.

The rest of the night was spent in varying degrees of fog, with our own special terrors of the Buzzard's Bay Light tower (don't look at it, it will consume you!!! Aaahhh!) and the fishing boats. We did take turns napping, and it was truly lovely when the moon came out periodically. By sunrise, the fog began to break up, and we had the hope of a spinnaker ride as we approached the buoy off Brenton Point. We could also see some of the fleet too, as the sun came up and the fog dissipated. We misjudged the angle to pass the RACON buoy, and sailed too far out, mostly because Norm was napping and didn't want to get up. But when he did, the spinnaker went up, and we made good time into the harbor. And look, there was the J-24 again. What is with those guys? Boy can they make good time.

We sailed past Castle Hill Light at 8:14:39. It was a welcome sight. We took down the sails, and started to relax. After we got set up against the standing pier, Norm got some beer, and we sat down to breakfast in the cockpit. (Yes, beer for breakfast..)

And then some much needed sleep. I wouldn't use the race as a model for taking care of ourselves. We have to figure that part out. We do much better on our long leg journeys when we're not racing. But I did learn a lot about navigating, navigating by myself, navigating in the fog, navigating by the contour lines. This would all come in very handy, when? well, the very next day. But we didn't know that yet. We still had to go to the awards party/ceremony, where again, the club knocked itself out to make us feel welcome and eventually well fed. Thanks to Mal for the clam chowder, and all the tidbits at the buffet. We got to chat with the rest of the racers, and compare notes. It was a very pleasant way to spend the evening of the race. Newport Yacht Club, you do it well.

The race was officially 77 miles, from Newport, west of Goat Island, start line, past the SW buoy off the SW point of Block Island, from there to the Buzzard's Bay Light Tower off Cuttyhunk, and back to the RW Mo(A) off of Brenton Point, then into the harbor past Castle Hill Light, which was the finish line. Here is a link to Google maps showing the area we raced in.
Ok, so we need more detail on this regatta thing.

We had a nice sail down, although we reached the Canal about 4 hours too soon. We were so wound up Wednesday afternoon that we couldn't nap and leave at our scheduled time of 8-10pm. So we headed down to the boat and left early, just around 6ish, watching the Wednesday night racers get ready to start. So what do you do at the canal in pre-dawn, to while away 4 hours? If you're Norm, you heave to, and nap. If you're Elizabeth, you take some fixes and determine about 1/2 hr into your watch that the boat is heading for shore. So you release the tiller, release the jib, and sail back and forth for another couple of hours. About 7am, Norm took over, and headed toward the canal, where our fair current was just about to arrive.

Here's a link to Google maps that shows the coast from the West side of the Canal all the way to Newport.

The rest of the trip down was fun for its navigational work. We stuck pretty close to shore, as you would in a coastal cruise. So that meant lots of navigating. We were trying to keep up a good pace, so we would arrive in time for the checkin, which was held from 4-8pm Thursday night. We had been told that slips would be allocated on a first come/first serve basis, so that was an incentive too. So I got to practice coastal navigating, checking all the onshore landmarks, and sighting the navigational aids. We chose to sail through the Hens and Chicks off Gooseberry Neck, instead of going out to the Green "3" Fl 4s Gong, to save about an hour. For the first time, Norm was skittish about going through, but I was confident. Hmmm. What's up with that?

The stress must have made him tired since he decided to take a nap. I had to navigate around Sakonnet Point by myself, so with charts on the cockpit seat next to me, I sailed and spotted. Thankfully, every marker was where it should be, so we didn't sail over any land.

We got into Newport Harbor just around 4, which worked out perfectly since we got a slip. We were all settled in by 4:30pm and checking out the clubhouse. The showers are immaculate, and the folk are very friendly and welcoming.

AVERISERA at her berth in front of the Newport (RI) Yacht Club

Elizabeth in her new regatta shirt, very proudly worn, too.

July 25th through 29th 2007
AVERISERA made the trip from Boston to Newport, Rhode Island for the New England Solo Twin Regatta with Elizabeth and Norman aboard. We departed Boston at evening's high tide in order to have a fair current in the Cape Cod Canal the next morning. Arrived in Newport mid afternoon, about 22 hours under way. Checked in at the YC and grabbed showers, a cocktail... Elizabeth's first "Dark and Stormy" and not a precursor of things to come.

Friday morning skipper's meeting to get the race course and last minute instructions. Off the dock mid morning to relax out on the harbor, watch the various sailing craft scudding across the harbor with tourists aboard. Slowly the fleet assembled for the start. Noon start. Nice beat out of Newport Harbor in a 10 kt SW wind. Hugged the Pt Judith shore for current relief. Most of the fleet went out and we saw them sitting offshore in light air. AVERISERA was feeling pretty cool... until the breeze died inshore and filled in offshore. Darn. Crossed to Block Island and found both a breeze and current relief along the beach. E watched as the depths dropped into the low teens. The tack in on starboard had us pointed at some big boulders. Not comforting. But... we smoked the fleet who were out in no air and adverse current. Again, AVERISERA is feeling very cool. We closed with the fleet leaders near our first turning mark by hugging the shore. All we had to do was sail accross a hundred yards of slick water against a foul current. We searched for a lane.

Block Island's SW Point featured a big wind hole. We tried to be clever and find a path with wind to the buoy. No such luck. After about two hours of struggling, sometimes in dense fog, no wind, and fading light, we made it around the buoy and were off. At this point we had had a shot at leading our division but just couldn't pull it off.

The reach at night to Buzzards Bay Tower as uneventful. As the Tower got closer the fog settled in. The light has an eerie sweep showing four blades of light each at right angles. They rotate in a menacing manner from the top of a dark, surreal black iron three legged monster. Little AVERISERA and her tiny crew seemed to be be sneaking by a searching aggressor. Of course, a light tower is hardly such. It is, in fact, quite the opposite.

After rounding the Tower we were darn near run down by a fishing boat. Dense fog at night, VHF chatter with competitors and fishing craft, lots of flash light shining on sails no rest, and finally sunrise. Tied up at the club in time for a late breakfast.

The awards ceremony was nice. Dinner and short speeches. Although we finished fourth in class and fourth in the group of a dozen boats that sailed our course the trip was well worth the effort.

Sailed and motor-sailed home on Sunday. Lots of rest on that leg of the adventure.

More double handed racing in store for Team AVERISERA.

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